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Bernie Sanders at the Crossroads, 1981
June 25, 2019
by William P. Meyers

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A not entirely untrue satire

In 1980 a dark shadow fell over the land. Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States in November. In January 1981 he was sworn into the office. Across the land the hopes of socialists, revolutionaries and democratic socialists alike, were withering. The 1960s had been a time of hope. The 1970s had been tough, as the movement largely fell apart after the military draft was ended. The masses did not rise up against Reagan. Donations to socialists were forcing leaders to work for a living.

Bernard Sanders, who would be known to voters as Bernie, was wondering what to do with himself. He was 39 years old. He had never held a steady job. He had run for office many times on the Liberty Union (a socialist party, despite its deceptive name) ticket, and never won. He had run through the small fortune he had inherited from his father, the owner of a wholesale paint business in New York City. All he had left was his house near the tiny Vermont town of Burlington. His pretend business of socialist writing was supplemented by mooching.

After raiding the refrigerator of a female acquaintance, Bernie was walking home late at night. As he reached the corner of Pearl Street and Ethan Allen Highway, deep in despair, a man appeared to come out of the shadows. He seemed to have supernatural energy about him. Bernie recognized it was the Devil. Or maybe just one of the older hippies who hung about the town, or a disheveled professor of religious studies.

"Bernard," said the apparition.

"People call me Bernie," said Bernard.

"Times have changed," said the Devil. "I have a proposition for you."

"I'm not interested in any proposition," snarled Bernie.

"Hear me out. You need a job, and you want it to be an elected office. Otherwise you could have used that University of Chicago degree to get you a job as a government bureaucrat long ago."

"So what?"

"I can make you Mayor of Burlington."

Bernie was tempted, but cynical. "How could you do that? The mayor is unbeatable, and I've never even been on the city council."

"The mayor is beatable. He wants to develop the waterfront, which is upsetting people. You can run against waterfront development."

"But I won't run as a democrat."

"You don't have to. Mayor Paquette consorts with Republicans, even though he is a Democrat. This is a very left-wing university town. You run as an independent and rally the university crowd against development."

"You are right, I could do that, if the left-wing democrats will support me. But it takes money to run a campaign."

"No problem. I have a group of good progressive businessmen who have a progressive development plan for the waterfront. They will fund your campaign."

"So there is a catch. I'll still have to develop the waterfront."

"Bernie, Bernie, Bernie. You know the waterfront is going to be developed. When you do it, you will call it revitalization. It is a small price to pay for being Mayor. If you are mayor, you can speak out about your socialist causes. People will listen. You can make this a model town. A shining light of socialism in a Republican, capitalist state."

Bernie saw the light. "Yes, I'll run."

Bernie Sanders at the Crossroads

And the Devil said: "I will make you great among men. I grant you the gift of duplicity."

And from that day forward Bernie found that when he spoke, he instinctively knew what to say to please a crowd.

He beat Gordon Paquette by 10 votes, then was mayor of Burlington for eight years. He never met the Devil again.

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